Agenda item

Update on the Housing Asset Management Service


            (a)       That the report be noted;


(b)       That now the service was delivering sustained improved performance that an annual update report to Committee be provided in future.



The Housing Asset Manager introduced a report to update Members on the progress of the Housing Asset Management Service improvement workstreams.  He introduced Denise Price, the Business Performance Manager, to the Committee.   


                        He detailed the background to the report and provided details of some of the main highlights of 2013-14 which included improved performance across all categories of repairs and full delivery of the Capital Programme, again outperforming the promises made in the Choices Document.  It was reported that the team had worked closely with the Housing Training Manager to provide both necessary and added value training to all members of the service and a full list of the training provided was detailed.  One of the courses which had been identified as being of benefit to the service was scaffolding, as being able to carry out this task in-house would reduce the amount of spend with external contractors.  A corporate fleet review had been undertaken and the proposed new ownership model would generate efficiencies through both cost of vehicles and improved productivity as a result of revised arrangements for vehicle servicing and safety checks. 


                        On the issue of mobile working, the Housing Asset Manager said that there had been some initial difficulties but the issues were being addressed and a robust solution to provide an effective, fit for purpose Mobile Working solution for the future was being identified.  A site visit had been undertaken by Housing and IT officers to an authority where the proposed solution had been implemented in order to view the new solution in a working environment and to discuss the risks and benefits of the system.  The Housing Asset Manager provided details of the new solution and explained that the project to implement the new solution would be undertaken in three stages which he detailed.  The team had achieved significant improvements in performance across all categories of repairs over the last 12 months and continued to work towards further improvement with the aim of achieving top quartile status for the service.  It was predicted that over 49,000 additional repairs would have been carried out in 2013-14 which was over 3000 more than the last financial year and a further 2000 more than the 2011-12 financial year.  The Housing Asset Manager spoke of the performance around vacant properties and added that there had been a number of improvements to management arrangements and business processes during the year which had driven the improvements.  Further developments were planned for the forthcoming year to continue progress which included revised voids standards, in-house Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) kitchen team and improved performance reports.  He advised that 99.69% of gas servicing checks had been undertaken in 2013-14 but added that the target remained as 100% and the team was committed to working with Housing Management to achieve that in 2014-15. 


                        The Housing Asset Manager provided details of the works which it had been intended to provide under the Capital Works Programme for 2013/14 and also details of the works which had been carried out which exceeded the targets.  This included 200 bathrooms which had been delivered to meet WHQS which had not initially been included in the programme but which had since been allocated some funding.  Following agreement with Welsh Government of a revised business plan to achieve WHQS by 2020, a number of measures had been undertaken to progress delivery of the standard, which were detailed in the report.  The next step was to develop a revised delivery programme incorporating information and feedback and this would be undertaken in three stages which were also detailed.  The priorities for the forthcoming financial year 2014-15 included implementing a revised Mobile Working solution in the service, improving van stock management and developing a six year Investment Programme to achieve WHQS. 


                        Councillor Mike Reece welcomed the report but raised concern about van users taking their vehicles home when they were on holiday.  Also he felt that the supervision of the caretakers should be undertaken as part of the Building Maintenance Team.  The Housing Asset Manager said that he would discuss both of these issues with the Head of Housing following this meeting. 


                        In raising concern about problems that had previously occurred on Mobile Working, Councillor Rosetta Dolphin said that it was important to ensure that the new system was suitable for the service.  The Housing Asset Manager acknowledged that there had been problems in the past but said that the service would have been looking to upgrade at this time anyway so a system that was more flexible and updated would be of benefit.  In response to a further comment from Councillor Dolphin, the Housing Asset Manager said that once the analysis of the Capital Programme had been undertaken the programme would be revised.  Councillor Ian Dunbar raised concern about delays in the provision of kitchens which were being specifically designed to fit but welcomed the improvement in the repairs service.  In response to a question from Councillor Dunbar, the Housing Asset Manager provided further details of lone working and explained that processes and procedures were in place to ensure the safety of the workforce.   


                        Councillor George Hardcastle welcomed the report and asked that the thanks of the Committee be passed to the workforce for the improvements made.  Following a question from Councillor Hardcastle about mobile working, the Housing Asset Manager explained that the new proposal would costs significantly less than what had been budgeted for and said that the budget would cover the new devices and include a scheduling element too.  If problems occurred with the new devices then the back-up system would be the devices that were currently in place which would mean that there would never be any risk that the service could not continue. 


                        Councillor Hilary Isherwood raised concern about two issues with resident’s kitchens in her ward which she asked the Head of Housing to consider.  She also raised concern about council houses which did not have a back door as she felt that it was crucial to have two escape routes from a property.  She asked whether this would be covered by the WHQS.  The Housing Asset Manager advised that he did not know whether this would be part of WHQS but said that he would make enquiries and would provide a response to Councillor Isherwood.  He added that the issue of properties not having a back door would be addressed during the property having a kitchen upgrade. 


                        In response to a question from Councillor Amanda Bragg about problems that may arise with gardens of properties when residents take over a tenancy, the Head of Housing said that it was hoped that any issues could be dealt with under the new six year capital programme.  She added that the Tenancy Agreement would make clear that the garden was the responsibility of the tenant, but it was important to ensure that it was in a suitable condition before the tenancy commenced.  The Housing Asset Manager said that ideally, all of the issues would be addressed when the property was void and added that external repairs/alterations would form a large part of the new six year plan.  Councillor Isherwood asked if there were any proposals to use parts of larger gardens as parking areas in wards which had a lack of parking and the Housing Asset Manager said that it could be looked at as part of the environmental project and that each area would be addressed on its merits.      




            (a)       That the report be noted;


(b)       That now the service was delivering sustained improved performance that an annual update report to Committee be provided in future.


Supporting documents: